Interview Date: Thursday December 12, 2002
Interview Location: Denver, CO
Interviewer: Rex Porter
Collection: Hauser Collection
PORTER: I'm Rex Porter and we're at The Cable Center in Denver to interview cable pioneer Dr. Richard Green. Hi, Richard.
GREEN: Hi, Rex.
PORTER: Could we begin this interview by getting you to give us a little bit of your background as a young boy growing up and attending school and so forth?
GREEN: Well, I grew up in Colorado Springs. I was born in Colorado Springs and spent the first 18 years of my life there, so I'm a native Coloradoan. It's very heartening to see all of The Cable Center here and Cable Labs in Colorado, and so on, but anyway, I grew up in Colorado Springs, went to Colorado Springs high school. At the time, Colorado Springs only had one high school, now they have several, but it was THE high school. I had always been interested in electronics and kind of played around with amateur radio when I was in junior high. I never really got very good at it because I could never really find a mentor to help me through it.
PORTER: Nobody in your family had an engineering background?
GREEN: No, no. My dad worked for the Maytag Rocky Mountain Company, which was a distributor of Maytag appliances. He was a very technical guy and I learned an awful lot about appliances when I was growing up, including gasoline engines because Maytag had gasoline engine driven washers.
PORTER: I know about that. We used to take them and put them on bicycles to drive our bicycles.
GREEN: Good little engines, they are. We had those little engines around the house, or around the garage, because they were such good little pieces of machinery. My first real experience in telecommunications, I would say, came when I was in college and I went to college in Colorado as well, Colorado College, and I...
PORTER: Where is Colorado College?
GREEN: It's in Colorado Springs, and it's a small liberal arts college. I was very fortunate to get just an excellent liberal arts education there. What happened when I was in college, I decided I would like to work for a radio station. I always kind of had an ambition to do that, so I got an interview and the interview usually consisted of one of the announcers going in and ripping off news off of the Teleprinter, the AP wire, handing it to you and saying, "Make a newscast out of that." Well anyway, after I did this they said, "Well, gee, you know, you might have a future, but we don't think it's along these lines." (LAUGHTER) I was sort of irritated and so I decided, well, maybe the way to get into this kind of business was technical, so I got a hold of a book – I can't remember the name – it was THE bible on the FCC test and I read it cover to cover, learned the answers to the questions. I think it was called Questions and Answers on the FCC Exam, if I remember right. Then I went to Denver, took the test, went back to the radio station and said, "Hey, I got a nice new license here."
PORTER: Now, did you go all the way to first class?
GREEN: No, I thought that would be too hard so I did the second class and when I got the results back I said, "Well, that wasn't so bad," so I went back the next test period, which was a month later, I think, something like that, and took the first class exam. The radio station didn't really need any engineers, they said. Well, basically they ran the transmitter from the console. Anyway, they didn't really need anyone. So I figured well, television needs engineers and so I got a job at the television station in Colorado Springs, KRDL. So that's how I got started in the business.
PORTER: So now you're in Colorado Springs, you're working for the TV station. How long did you work for the TV station?
GREEN: I took the license exam in '57 and began work in '57, and then I graduated in '59, so I worked at the television station for two years.
PORTER: But now you're graduating with a liberal arts degree?
GREEN: Physics. I majored in physics.
PORTER: Okay, and so what came after that? You didn't stay at the TV station after that, did you?
GREEN: No, well, the academic path that I followed was kind of different too. When I started college I thought the most interesting topic to major in would be psychology, so I took, as was required, a lot of liberal arts kind of courses, which I liked a lot, but I particularly liked psychology and after I began to get into it I liked it a lot, but I thought, well, it's not an exact science. There are so many different opinions here and there doesn't seem to be any way to judge who's right or which is better. So, although it was fascinating, I had this queasy feeling that I need to be in a profession that's more definitive in some way, where you can really say things are primarily right or not right, you know. Some quantitative way to... And so at the end of my second year in college, when I was at the end of my sophomore year, I decided to go to summer school and I took physics in summer school and I loved it. It just was exactly what I felt comfortable doing and so then I became a physics major and so for the last two years I took a lot of technical courses – lots of math and chemistry, physics – and had some very good professors who had written the text books and so it was kind of a complete change, but one that I felt a lot more comfortable with. In the middle of that, I also got the job at the television station, so my last two years in college I worked at the television station early mornings and late at night.
PORTER: So now you've got your diploma and you're going out into the big cruel world.
GREEN: Well, what basically happened is that I also took ROTC during my last two years of college so I had a military tour to do at the end of 1959. Again, it was kind of interesting because I was working at the television station and the fellow who did the weather was a fellow named Stormy Rottman, who became quite a personality here in Denver, I think, at one time, but he started out in the station there, and he worked at NORAD, and he said, "Oh, you're going into the military? Let me see if I can get you a job at NORAD because you'd be right local and we need technical people."
PORTER: Were you in the Force?
GREEN: No, I was Army, but NORAD's multi, and so I went over and interviewed at NORAD and coming out of ROTC I was a second lieutenant and I discovered that at NORAD what a second lieutenant does is manage the coffee because everybody's a general. Even the colonels made copies. Nothing wrong with it except I thought in two years I'm not going to learn a lot probably, and certainly this is a very different part of the military environment.
PORTER: Now were they at Ent Airforce Base then?
GREEN: They were. As I recall, maybe they had moved out to Cheyenne Mountain – no, they hadn't moved out to Cheyenne Mountain, which is another story because they built... we put the first transmitter on the top of Cheyenne Mountain for our television station and the minute we put the tower up there the government came along and decided to hollow out the inside of the mountain. Transmitters sprung up like a porcupine on top of the mountain. But anyway, I decided to do a more regular military tour, and I was in the Signal Corps so I went to Ft. Monmouth and became a Signal officer. Again, a kind of technical education and background, which a lot of telecommunications in there, radio and telephony...
PORTER: Radar and the whole bit?
GREEN: Well, not so much. Radar was kind of a specialty. This was more a general education on how to set up communications systems and telephone systems and those kinds of things, which I enjoyed very much.
PORTER: So what was your tour?
GREEN: It was a two year tour. I was held in, I think it was a Berlin crisis. I can't remember, it was one of the crisis that occurred in the early '60s. But I stayed in another nine months or something like that, held in, and it was... the military experience was very interesting because when I went through Signals school it was my first experience on the East Cost. The furthest east I'd ever been was Chicago, so moving to the East Coast and going into New York and seeing the big city, it was quite an interesting experience, but the interesting part of it was that most of the other people that were at Ft. Monmouth were more or less local. They were from Boston or Washington or kind of East Coast, so they could go home on holidays. Well, it was too far for me to go home so I would sit, stay, on the base and read the manuals. So I came out number one in the Signals school because I knew the answers better than anybody else! I took it seriously.
PORTER: You set the precedent by getting the book on how to pass the FCC test.
GREEN: You just read the manuals and take the test. I think I took it very seriously, too. I really wanted to learn a lot about electronics and the net result of all that was that if you come out number one in the class at the Signals school then you get to pick your assignment, which is very fortunate because otherwise you'd just get assigned and that can be pretty traumatic. They gave me a list of five different assignments, all of which were very interesting: an assignment to the Signal Corps laboratories, assignments to the Pentagon, and there was one, they said basically this is one we can't tell you anything about. So I said, "Oh, okay. I'll take that one." Being an inherent risk taker I decided that's the one I want. Well, it turned out to be a very interesting assignment and it was based in a compound at Ft. Monmouth and it was intelligence work. So I traveled the world basically doing what was cutting-edge, technical kinds of intelligence, and so became part of that community. So I was signed there all the time that I was in the Army.
PORTER: But still Signal intelligence?
GREEN: Well, it's actually, again, multi-disciplinary because the intelligence services, although I was assigned to an Army unit, most of the time when I wasn't at work I wore civilian clothes, but at the base, at Ft. Monmouth, I was in uniform.
PORTER: Now was there any broadcast experience while you were in the service as far as television?
GREEN: No, not a lot. Ft. Monmouth has several laboratories. They're scattered around at different parts of the countryside in New Jersey, and I was assigned to the Evans area, which is historically a very interesting site. It was the site for the reception of the first trans-Atlantic radio communications, it was the site for the first radar that bounced off the moon, and so a lot of history. An older area, military buildings, but sort of a sense of history, a sense of being part of the cutting edge in technology, and of course a lot of the scientists that were assigned there were very senior, very, very capable people, so it was a very interesting and rewarding learning experience.
PORTER: So what year did you come out of the service?
GREEN: '62, '63, and then I stayed at the laboratory.
PORTER: As a civilian?
GREEN: As a civilian stayed on at the laboratory. Again, when I left the service I interviewed several places in the laboratory and I ran into the head of one of the divisions, his name was Dr. Merrill, and he was quite a figure, very tall and a very imposing figure both mentally and physically. He couldn't see very well so he kind of looked through his glasses at me and he said, "We're going to do some things here that are really new. We're going to work in lasers. Are you interested?" I knew vaguely what lasers were – this was '62 – and the laser had really just been invented. The original paper was in '61, as I recall, and there had been first implementations of ruby lasers and so on, so I thought that really is interesting. So I went to work for Dr. Merrill and my first assignment was to use laser, a pulse, ruby laser, as a radar device. So, a team of which I was fortunate to be a part, three of us, built the first laser range finder. There was a fellow named Fred Maimon, as I remember, I hope I have the name right, who had actually invented the ruby laser and had been able to make it work. It was at Hughes Aircraft and we worked with him and built the first one, and it was an exciting time. It was a laboratory device, an optical range finding device that used a light pulse as the laser pulse.
PORTER: Did they ever get into modulating while you were there?
GREEN: Well, there were other parts of the laboratory that were doing modulated communications, yeah, and we had gas lasers and things like that, too, but the kind of work that I was doing was purely on the pulse laser side.
PORTER: So you stayed there how long, as a civilian?
GREEN: Well, what happened to me, Rex, is that working in a laboratory... the two fellows I was working with were very competent engineers. One of them was from MIT, the other was from Georgia Tech and I realized in the process I needed more education, and so I decided that I needed to go back to school, and so I went back to school in '63.
GREEN: State University of New York in Albany. The State University had just been assembled in the last couple years, and there was a lot of money being invested by the State of New York in the university system, and it had the advantage that the tuition was free.
PORTER: Was it primarily an engineering school?
GREEN: No, the reason that I was attracted to it was that it had a very good physics department, and it was unique because the people that were teaching physics there were people who were actively involved in physical research – Knowles Atomic Power Laboratory, there was GE Research Laboratories and so in New York State – and the education that you received was from people who were really doing active research and teaching, as well. They were doing industrial research.
PORTER: So you could get involved in projects outside the university?
GREEN: Well, you know, these people were involved in industrial research for active companies, General Electric in a lot of cases, so it was really being taught by people that were really on the cutting edge of physical research. So I had some very interesting courses. One of the fellows, he was the chief theorist for the Knowles Atomic Power, and I always had an interest in nuclear physics, but he started out a course in theoretical physics, this is master's degree level now, theoretical physics with a pendulum and he's saying, "Okay, here's the equation that you learned in undergraduate school." To analyze a pendulum you simplify it, you make assumptions and you say, "Okay, let's see what happens if you don't make those assumptions." Well, six weeks later with the blackboard full of equations, you now. It's a wonderful way to learn theoretical physics and pretty soon you're defining all of the advanced functions of theoretical physics and so on. I really loved theoretical physics and I really loved the course. So, that's how I happened to get into more or less theoretical nuclear physics.
PORTER: Now, that was a four-year school?
GREEN: Well, it was a four-year school, but I just went for a master's degree.
PORTER: Okay, so you got your master's from...
GREEN: Yeah, and you needed a master's project, you had to write a thesis, and so what I proposed at the university is I would write a thesis about a laser, a pulse laser range finder. There was an organization called the Atmospheric Sciences and Research Center, which was also in Albany. They did pretty advanced work in atmospheric sciences, and in a discussion with them I figured that you can use this optical radar to develop atmospheric profiles. You shine the light out there and you can watch the back scatter from the light coming back and tell something about that optical path. So I proposed that and the university supported that and that was my master's thesis, so I drove down to Ft. Monmouth and got the Army to agree to loan me their range finder for six months, took it to Albany, went through an Albany winter with the range finder actually just probing the atmosphere. It was a very interesting master's thesis because how many people had access to a ruby laser?
PORTER: Did you find out that ultimately you could project weather that way?
GREEN: The net result of this was they classified my thesis, which made it hard to present. So I worked out an agreement with the university where I would do a verbal presentation and demonstrate the range finder, demonstrate the scientific method in there, but not really reveal all the results. Anyway, that was my master's work.
PORTER: Now about the time you're getting a master's degree are you thinking about going back to...?
GREEN: I was on leave from Ft. Monmouth, and I did. I went back for about six months. I applied for a title four national research fellowship, which was granted and then I went on for a Ph.D. and had a choice of universities in doing that. The master's work was more on the theoretical side except for the thesis which was very experimental, but I got interested in the biological side of physics, so I picked the University of Washington as a university to work on the biological effects of ionizing radiation, which is really nuclear effects.
PORTER: For your doctorate?
GREEN: Well, it didn't turn out that way, but I went to the university for that kind of background. The government was interested in sponsoring people who had a nuclear physics background and also was interested in biophysics. When I got to the University of Washington, I spent a year or so kind of specializing in that. I never really did finish up a master's degree in biophysics, which I could have, I just didn't do it. I went ahead for a Ph.D.
PORTER: Well, your interests changed.
GREEN: Well, yeah, and I got interested in geophysics and so it kind of shifted over to astro-geophysics at the University of Washington. It gets complicated.
PORTER: After you got your doctorate – and that was at the University of Washington?
GREEN: University of Washington in Seattle. I worked for a television station while I was there, a local station, KIRO.
PORTER: In Spokane?
GREEN: No, no, in Seattle. I worked nights and weekends mostly studio, audio, did a lot of audio work, audio engineering, a little production engineering. I also, while I was there, at the same time worked at Boeing, got a job at the Boeing Research Laboratory, which really pushed me into the geophysics specialty. I was in graduate school full-time, too.
PORTER: So you were doing three things at one time.
GREEN: Yeah, I was doing three things at one time. Well, I had a full fellowship a the university and then Boeing Research Lab was a wonderful place because they had a group of world renowned physicists or researchers. They had a mathematics department, they had geophysics and astrophysics departments, they had a materials science laboratory and so on. The real attraction to the laboratory was access to computers.
PORTER: The geophysics laboratory at Boeing, was it fairly new, had it been around for a long time?
GREEN: It was fairly new. It had been around for a few years. It was a wonderful environment and I eventually stayed on as a research scientist there, but the brought me in as a student with the idea that I would work on projects that could be used for a Ph.D. thesis, as well as useful for Boeing that had to do with the lunar landing and those kinds of things, and a lot of software and computer work, which I did there. In fact, this was back in the days when everything was batch processed, so you had a deck of cards and you submitted the deck and then you got the results back, you know? I did so many of those that I actually kept warm all winter long just burning the mistakes. But it was again, it was a combination of theoretical physics, geophysics – analyzing the moon and trying to pick lunar landing sites and so on.
PORTER: Now did you use that as part of your doctorate?
GREEN: Oh, yeah, that was my doctorate.
PORTER: That was your doctorate.
GREEN: My doctorate thesis, which I can't remember the exact title, had to do with an analysis of the anomalies, thermal anomalies on the moon. I guess, not to get into a long discussion, but together with some other Boeing scientists we scanned the moon during an eclipse in the infrared and it turns out that the moon is covered with a lot of bright spots which are anomalous, so the purpose of the Ph.D. thesis was to try to figure out what was the reason and why they were distributed the way they were.
PORTER: Did you keep an extra copy of the paper? Or is a classified document?
GREEN: (Laughter) I do, I have it. No, they didn't classify that one. When I finished up the doctorate I briefly went back to Ft. Monmouth to the laboratory for six months to finish up some projects there and then I took a job at the Boeing Research Laboratory. I went back to Seattle.
PORTER: So you went from East Coast back to the West Coast.
GREEN: Back to the West Coast and decided to become a research physicist as a career. I was also working weekends and nights at the television station doing remotes, mostly in a production capacity – did a lot of sports remotes...
PORTER: The stuff that you had done back at Monmouth, especially the laser, Boeing wasn't involved in anything like that, were they?
GREEN: Well, they were, but I was not involved with lasers at Boeing.
PORTER: Did you miss the mystery of what they were going to do with those lasers?
GREEN: No, I followed the development of those early range finders because I had job offers from companies that were building them, and Hughes Aircraft became one of the major manufacturers. Some of the early manufacturers – RCA built the laser range finders, productized it, made a military version of it because the versions we built were really laboratory experimental versions, but an interesting thing I guess I should mention is that one of the jobs that I got with the laser range finder was to take it around the country to various military installations to demonstrate the capability because this was totally new technology. Being able to determine distances to an accuracy of a few feet was completely unknown in military circles. Range finding was always done optically and it's not very accurate really. So I took it to the various decision levels in the Army – Ft. Benning for the infantry, and Ft. Sill for armor, and so forth.
PORTER: Sacramento, the airplane center?
GREEN: Well, you know, where the various commands were located. The really interesting response I got was from the artillery, of course, because they'd lob a shell out and it would produce a cloud of smoke and I could range to the smoke and tell them exactly where it was. You can instantly see the advantage to that. The other thing is of course they said, "Well, I wonder what we could do from the air?" So I took this development optical device and strapped it in an Army helicopter and we took off and flew around, so I'm probably the first person to ever fly a laser, and I could range to targets. One thing you discover in a helicopter is everything is vibrating and everything is very noisy and it's really hard with an optical device to target anything, but I could target large targets and give them ranges and so on, like that. So it was very interesting.
PORTER: So you're back to Seattle?
GREEN: I was back to Seattle.
PORTER: You've gone back to Seattle from New Jersey and you've gone to...
GREEN: I've gone to work in a Boeing research lab, and the kind of work I did there was mostly computer analysis and simulation, so it was really more theoretical than anything else, and again, to follow up looking at developing the landing perimeters, worked with NASA to develop the physical contacts for the moon landings. There were Boeing/NASA kinds of contracts that we worked on. I also did various kinds of work in geophysics; remote sensing, orbital evaluation of terrain, things like that, multi-sensor.
PORTER: So you're doing all this work in Seattle. This is what year?
GREEN: Well, by now it's '68? Yeah, I graduated in '68, so '68 through '72 I worked for Boeing Research Laboratory on these kinds of various projects. It was a great job, wonderful environment. It's the type of environment that we'd love to find today where the goal is you write six papers a year or five papers a year, or something like that, and basically they pay you to do that, and they don't tell you what to do or what to write, and the idea is to do significant work so that it will be referenced. So generally the evaluation was how many times did you get referenced by other researchers?
PORTER: Now did you have to get it published?
GREEN: Oh, yeah! In five or six publications, yeah, which wasn't a big problem because lunar research and so on was really burgeoning at the time. Probably, in terms of what happened to me later on, one of the most interesting things that I worked on there was image compression, and the task was how do you store images, still images and video images, in computers because the data in a picture or video is enormous and computers, especially in those days, didn't have the capacity to store them or to manipulate them and so on. So I worked on a series of analytical algorithms and weird functions, you could say. Wonderful functions! Probably I'm born in the wrong era because if somebody were just to pay me to do nothing but work with mathematical functions I would be perfectly happy. I could sit in a tower and just study the behavior of mathematical functions. Well, this was part of it and there were some digital functions called Walsh Functions, which are square wave functions that look a lot like sine wave and cosine, and they have the advantage of being, since they're square waves, they're binary, so they're particularly suited to computer analysis and so on. And it turns out that you can process pictures and compress them way down in terms of the actual storage space.
PORTER: Did you get them compressed to work?
GREEN: Oh, yeah, we did a lot of that.
PORTER: Wasn't video harder?
GREEN: Well, we didn't do a lot of video. We did mostly still pictures so I did a lot of black and white, you know, black and white still pictures, and the actual use of all that had a classified purpose, but I published papers on Walsh Functions, how to mark transforms and kind of esoteric, I guess you'd call it esoteric, mathematics, some probability theories, and you can use some of these functions for transmission, too. So there's a space transmission aspect of it. I did a bunch of work in that, too. So again, kind of analytical work. The reason I mention it is we looked at all kinds of ways to compress pictures and this was one that I was particularly interested in and that you could build real time streaming processors for in those days because you didn't have to multiply, all you had to do was add, and you could add much faster than you could multiply so it had real attraction for the current state of technology at the time. We also played with cosine transforms and did a lot of picture compression with cosine transforms. Well, that, over the years – now this was in the '60s, this was in the mid to late '60s – all that has developed into the compression system that we use today, the MPEG compression system, the discreet cosine transform. So I had the advantage of working on it very, very early in the game, and so later on when I got involved in cable it's something that I fortunately really understood.
PORTER: You had no touch with cable up to this point? Cable television.
GREEN: No, none whatever. My total relationship to television was broadcasting. I was really a broadcasting guy.
PORTER: Well, if this was such a wonderful atmosphere that you were working in and things were going well what drew you away?
GREEN: I got a call from a buddy of mine who I had worked with at Ft. Monmouth when I was a civilian and he had gone to work for Hughes Aircraft Company and he had called me on a particularly cloudy, rainy day in Seattle and he said, "You know, it's 70 degrees down here and the sun's shining brightly, and why don't you come down? We're looking for people to work on lasers." I hadn't been actively involved in it; I had been involved in a lot of theory but I hadn't done any experimental work in lasers in quite a while. Not exactly true – I can think of one project, which is very interesting which maybe we can go back to at some point that involved lasers, but anyway, so I went to southern California, to Los Angeles, and talked to this guy. It was a great opportunity. Hughes Research working in a kind of, again, merging topic, lasers and lasers primarily for military purposes.
PORTER: But similar to what you used in Monmouth?
GREEN: Um-hmm. Hughes had developed a strong reputation for laser research and we had worked with them when I was at Ft. Monmouth but I hadn't had any direct contact with them. Lots of really interesting things. By then very high powered lasers had been discovered and so there was significant work going on on very, very powerful kinds of lasers, so that was interesting as well.
PORTER: So you moved to California.
GREEN: Moved to southern California, yep, in '72 and my first son was born in '71 in Seattle, so I remember driving to southern California on I-5 when I-5 was first opened. There were stretches of I-5 where there weren't any gas stations or any support. You could go 100 miles and not see a gas station. Those days are gone forever, but I remember that and I remember taking David on his pack frame, he was less than a year old, of course, in a Volkswagen bug and driving from Seattle to LA, moving there. So then I started work at Hughes.
PORTER: And how long did you stay there?
GREEN: I was there '72 through about '77. Five years.
PORTER: And all the time doing research on lasers?
GREEN: Yeah, involved in lasers. A lot of hard work. I worked a lot of nights and weekends and lived very close to Hughes so I could walk back and forth to work, which is a nice thing to do in LA.
PORTER: This was all lab work?
GREEN: It was pure research. I did some analysis, intelligence analysis, too and things like that while I was there, but Hughes has a lot of activity, of course.
PORTER: What happened after Hughes? After you had your fill?
GREEN: I was going to go back to the lasers at Boeing. One of the people who worked in the research laboratories at Boeing – he was actually a professor at the University of Washington – he had an interest in gravity waves, which to a theoretical physicist is pretty interesting stuff, and the theory with a gravity wave is that if there was an explosion, a cosmic level explosion, it produces a blip in space time continuum so that what happens is a wave propagates out, almost like a seismic wave, but it's a gravity wave, and when that passes through a planet it squeezes it, squeezes it up.
PORTER: By affecting the gravitational field?
GREEN: Right, it actually distorts the metric so that it squeezes it. So it comes out as a general theory, so we got to talking and we decided it would be really interesting to build a laser seismograph. So we got an abandoned tunnel in the Cascade Mountains just north of Seattle, it's a long railroad tunnel, and we built a laser seismograph. What it really is is a long laser; it was a kilometer long in an aluminum tube with all the air pumped out, a vacuum in the tube so you don't have any kind of gaseous effects, and it very accurately measures the distance between the two terminals. We had granite piers on both ends anchored into the granite of the tunnel and we set up this tube and then we measured, very accurately, that distance as a function of time. And of course it changes, especially with the laser you can measure very accurately the changes. In fact, so accurately that you can put your finger down on this granite pier and push real hard and you can actually watch the granite pier sinking into the mountain. It's tiny, tiny amounts of movement, but you can measure it. So the theory is that you measure this distance very accurately and if a gravity wave goes by it will distort that and you should be able to see it, and you can make certain predictions about what size gravity wave it should be and what their period is and this sort of thing. Although, I was really an assistant on that – the individual professor really had the idea and did a lot of the design on the seismograph itself, and I really more or less helped him out because I was, at the time, a graduate student working with him, but it was really an opportunity. I noticed that somehow that's been lost in history. There are some people at Cal Tech who seem to get credit for the first laser range finder when it was actually this fellow in Seattle who thought of the idea. Now there are lots of laser seismographs built like this now throughout the world. It's interesting what finally happened. What happened is it turns out that there's a lot of things that distort the earth on all kinds of time scales from days to months to seconds. When the sun comes up and shines on the mountains, the mountains move and you see that, you see the movement, and what it does is produce what amounts to a very noisy background, so if you were to get a gravity wave passing through, it would be very hard to distinguish it from the noise, and you can analyze all kinds of spectro-analysis to try to separate it out, but in the end it's very difficult. So, what you really need is a laser seismograph on the moon and one on the earth, and then if a gravity wave goes by and you see them both squeeze up then you're pretty sure. Though they talked about doing that, I don't think anybody's actually done it. They have seismographs on the moon, but they're not of sufficient sensitivity. They're not laser seismographs that I'm aware of, and maybe they've done it by now. But you need to have several planets...
PORTER: Is it the only thing that causes that cosmic explosion, though?
GREEN: Well, any disruption...
PORTER: Would a volcano eruption do it?
GREEN: Well, that's so minor on the earth. A volcanic eruption would produce a seismic disturbance, which you can see on a seismograph, but a gravity wave is a longer period and should be higher amplitude to measure.
PORTER: So what happened to the guy's laser that's sitting in the hole in the mountain – of the Cascades?
GREEN: You know, I don't know what ever happened. It was there for years. I don't know that the University of Washington did an awful lot of work in seismic kinds of analysis, but this is pretty far out as far as ideas go, at the time. Now there are people looking for gravity waves this way. I don't know if anybody's found them. There are other ways to do it besides lasers, too, but it's a very interesting study because there should be gravity waves there, and cosmic explosions or binary star rotating produces a periodic gravity wave. It's a gravity disturbance. Think about it, you know, if you drop something here it sends out a wave – pretty small, in fact, so ridiculously small that you can't detect it.
PORTER: Let's go back to Hughes.
GREEN: Yes, we digressed.
PORTER: That's okay. And you've been at Hughes for...?
GREEN: I worked at Hughes from '72 to about '77.
PORTER: Then what pulled you away from that? It sounded like you were awfully happy there.
GREEN: Well, I was. Hughes, especially Hughes Aircraft Company, was a great place for a technical person to work. See, when I'd been at Boeing I was very much a research scientist. When it came to Hughes, they hired me as a research scientist, basically, but Hughes is managed, today as well, but back then was managed by technical people. So in some companies, being primarily technically oriented can be a disadvantage in management because upper management assumes that you're an ohms and watts guy, you probably don't know anything about money. So, Hughes encouraged people to enter in on the business side, in fact very much so. Part of the job was going out and getting contracts. So I spent a lot of time in Washington basically acquiring contracts for Hughes and for this research group. So you learn how to run a business and basically you bring a contract back, you have to pay the company so much, you take the rest of the money and hire people, and so it's a varied business. It was a way of learning business in a kind of protected environment, and on topics that you have a lot of knowledge about. It's a technical topic, so it's very interesting. Also, I'd never had the opportunity to learn how to run a business before. So in many ways, what happened is I rose up the ranks, and I became a department manager. A department manager at that time was about 300 people and I can't remember how much business, but I spent a lot of time out selling ideas and bringing home government contracts to keep the department going. So the real change at that time from being really a laboratory person – and I usually kept a half a day a week so I could go in the laboratory and play with circuits and things like that, just to be able to keep up with what was going on – but I became much more administrative and I think the truth is I looked up the ranks at Hughes and I thought, well, another few years I'm going to be a division manager. I'm going to have the same set of problems I've got know except I'm going to have a thousand people. I'll tell you what I think made the decision for me – we had a division manager and in order to bid a contract, of course, you had to approve it. So what you'd do is you'd write a proposal, you'd bid and RFP or whatever, and before the company would commit to it you had to send it to him and he would read it, and you could tell when you got it back from him how nervous he was about it because he'd read it and he would tear off the corners of the paper, and depending on his level of stress you could expect to have the whole corner torn off, or just a little piece of it, and I got to thinking one day, you know, is that what I really want in life? Do I want to live and be continuously under this kind of stress? It is stressful because you're worried about committing the company to performing on a contract. They're risky contracts because they're R&D and the Hughes reputation's at stake, there's a question about might the group get into trouble and not be able to perform, and all kinds of issues. So, I decided, you know, maybe I want to do something different, and so I went over one afternoon to ABC in Hollywood, and I had a friend who worked there who I'd known in Seattle, had worked for the television station in Seattle. So I went over to see him and I kind of walked around the sound stages at ABC Hollywood, and I thought, you know, this might be kind of interesting. So I applied for a job over there and they hired me.
PORTER: In audio?
GREEN: No, no, they hired me as management at the very lowest level. And the trouble with the lowest level was it was about half the salary that I was making at Hughes. So it was hard to explain to my wife and family why I would do this, but it just looked like an interesting, attractive thing to do, and I thought in the back of my mind, you know, I know an awful lot about video processing, and I know a lot about high level technology coming along that is going to be applicable to the broadcast and the production world, and it hasn't arrived here yet, so I can be in a role where I can really bring some new technology and bring some advantages to ABC. So I got hired, and I took a job as...
PORTER: Do you remember what your title was?
GREEN: Well, various networks had different titles. This was EIC – engineer in charge – and what it is is it's the lowest ranking management function. You're responsible for a program and you have a responsibility for all the engineering, all of the production engineers who are all unionized, and then you also have responsibility for the stage, all the stage hands and that sort of thing.
PORTER: When you say a program, you mean like, Everybody Loves Raymond, a program like that?
GREEN: Yes. The first show I did was Family Feud. I got assigned to do Family Feud. You're the company representative, so it's a tough thankless job because if anything goes wrong, and something always goes wrong, it's your fault because everybody blames the network. It's the network. It's never the production people's fault, right? It's a very interesting role. I'll just tell you this little vignette – I left an R&D organization where 30% of the people were Ph.D.s and wore a tie and sport coat or suit to work everyday, a very academic kind of atmosphere. Then I went over to ABC and within the first week the producer's throwing bottles at me – very emotional environment, and so a very different world, very different world, and logic doesn't have anything to do with it. It's an all people kind of world, whereas in an R&D environment there's a certain amount of people skills required, but it's a logical world, and the production world is not necessarily logical, but I felt good about it. And fortunately, within a year my salary had gotten back up, so it turned out to be a pretty good bet. When they interviewed me they took me on the set for the Captain & Tennil to show me what an engineer in charge does, and ABC was about the only network doing musical variety at that time. This was probably about '77, something like that I guess, and it really looked like kind of a fun, interesting environment, very different than anything I was doing at the time, but fitting in with my background of having done production in Seattle and Colorado Springs. So watching that production of Captain & Tennil I decided, yeah, I think I want to do this, and so when I went to work I got assigned Family Feud, which is a strip show, it's on every night and you shoot it all in one night and it's really a factory, but I learned a lot of very interesting things. Like on a game show you make the studio really cold because it makes the audience more active, and you make the audio really loud because that makes them more active, so I learned a lot of tricks of the trade. Tricks I will probably never use again. Then I worked on and was responsible for shows like Barney Miller, if you remember Soap, and Welcome Back Kotter. So that was that period of time when ABC moved to the number one network. I worked in the studios for awhile, but then I took over the post production part of ABC, which was responsible for net promotion and editing, that side of production. My ambition was to be the engineer in charge of the Academy Awards, and when I went to work for them I said that's what I want to do, and they said, "Well, it takes a couple of years to move there. It's a very, very complicated show. If everything works out, in a couple of years we'll let you do it." I didn't stay long enough, I guess, to get good enough to do the Academy Awards, and usually after the Academy Awards the person who did it is a basket case anyway. It's a terrible stress.
PORTER: Why did you want to do it?
GREEN: Challenge, because it's by far the most difficult program. The Super Bowl is complicated, but it's nothing like the Academy Awards. I'm not sure how it is these days.
PORTER: Did you ever do any sports?
GREEN: Oh, lots of sports. I worked for ABC Sports. Lots of sports. During that period of time there was a strike and so we actually had to do the production jobs.
PORTER: You're getting all that done and it's all strange and now you've got your salary back to where it was before you went there.
GREEN: Things are going well...
PORTER: What drew you away from ABC?
GREEN: Well, I had a call from CBS and it was kind of... let me, I guess, just tell you a little bit of the story here. One of the things that we did at ABC as an innovative technique -and it's complicated why you do this, but when you're shooting a sitcom the hard thing in video to do is to get reaction shots from the actors in a sitcom, and the traditional way of doing a television program is switched, you switch from one camera to another and somebody has to push a button. The timing to get a comedic reaction is very, very tight. You have to get the right frame . Ifyou're a little bit early or a little bit late, and that's a matter of two or three frames, it destroys the value ofthe joke. Little known, right? So we thought the smart way to do this is to record all the cameras and then we can go through afterward and we can pick the frame and we can add to the value of the program by doing that. So we started recording all the cameras and then editing afterward. Little different techniques for different shows because everybody had different ways of doing it, but nevertheless, that was the production technique. So I gave a paper on this at a big conference in LA and afterwards the CBS guys came up and they had been doing some similar things. All in the Family was done with multiple cameras, as I recall, too, for the same reasons I think. So the CBS people started talking to me about that. The attractive part of CBS was that they had a laboratory. ABC didn't really have a laboratory; it was all production and I was based in LA and did nothing but production. CBS had a laboratory on the East Coast and did a lot of development work as well as production work. CBS at the time probably had a really enviable track record in new developments in television. They invented the mini-cam, they had quite a patent portfolio that provided revenue but it also was very prestigious. They were doing work in digital television and things like that at the laboratory so I was kind of interested in it. The thing that I decided at the time was I knew a lot of secrets, production secrets, and to move from one network to another would certainly alienate ABC because as you can imagine it's a very competitive environment. Basically what happened is I was also approached by a company called Times Fiber who was building a new fiber division. The company at the time was the dominant provider of cable for cable television, but had formed a new group, had hired some people from Bell Labs, was doing some really interesting work in fiber optics, fiber optics for cable, making new kinds of fiber and cabling new kinds of fiber. So I thought, you know, it might be interesting to try that.
PORTER: Did they call you?
GREEN: They called me, and I can't remember exactly how that came about but I went to the Western Show, I met them at the Western Show because I was in LA and so I went down and I talked to people like Larry DeGeorge who was there, and as I remember the Times booth was the largest in the show.
PORTER: It probably was back then.
GREEN: It was the dominant provider.
PORTER: At one time we had two or three stories and then they made us stop doing it. We showed movies in one of them.
GREEN: Anyway, I think another factor was I really enjoyed Hollywood and I really enjoyed the production environment and my kids did, especially, too. My two boys were growing up in this environment and it's kind of a never-never land, you know? And one day I was walking across the ABC lot with my son who was probably about six or seven years old, and there's this guy in an ape suit that's coming towards us and passes us by and neither one of us bat an eye. I looked at this little kid and I thought, you know, he things the whole world is like this. I began to realize, while I think it's great for kids to grow up in a fantasy world ... the kids would come with me, he'd been on American Bandstand and as a little kid I just pushed him out on the floor and I think although it's a fascinating, wonderful world, I was worried about him growing up thinking the whole world was like that. So I thought, you know, it would be nice to move from a very urban environment like Los Angeles to a rural environment so they could see a little different side of life, and so that was a motivating factor, and I think I always knew that I wanted to move from LA when the kids got older just because it's a difficult environment for teenagers. And so rural Connecticut sounded like a real opportunity to do that. Plus you sell a house in LA and you can really buy a lot of house in Connecticut, so the combination of opportunity, kind of interesting new company emerging...
PORTER: Did they tell you they wanted you develop lasers?
GREEN: Well, they hired me as the Vice-President of Engineering, Director of Engineering, in the optical side and gave me a whole list of problems to try to solve, and so I took on the challenge. They basically asked me to build an engineering department and to look at a series of problems to solve. Among the problems were cabling fiber. And again, a long story but Times was making their own fiber rather than buy it from Corning or other sources. There were two sources -Corning and there was a Japanese fiber industry for providing fiber. And that fiber was very good but the idea was to develop a manufacturing capability for fiber which Times did and they'd hired, as I mentioned, two people from Bell Labs who knew how to do this and we were making fiber. The problem is the minute you tried to put it in a cable it didn't work so sell. In fact, it would become very loss-y. So got the job of trying to figure out how to put a fiber optic strand in a piece of cable that could be used in a cable plant, and it wasn't an easy problem and I didn't know anything about cabling or extruders or coax or how to make coax or anything. I learned.
PORTER: How to hang cable?
GREEN: (LAUGHTER) I learned all of this in a big hurry. In the end, the technique that we finally figure out on how to cable fiber was to put it in a tube so that the glass itself was never squeezed by the extruding process because when you do that it produces micro-breaks in the fiber and therefore loss, and therefore not a very good solution. So I got assigned something I didn't know anything about and I struggled with it, and we did, together as a group, solved that problem. Other things that we worked on were we were using lasers and we were using them in super trunks, basically. What we'd do was -and it was probably the beginning of the HFC kind of structure -but what we would do is FM modulate the channels on a fiber, and then transmit them out in the plant to kind of a sub-distribution point, turn them back into video and put them on the coax. So in a way, it was a very, very crude version of the HFC kind of plant, not very practical because we could only get about six or seven channels, as I remember, maybe not even that many, on one fiber at the time and the problem was because the lasers were so noisy that you needed FM modulation to gain signal against the noise.
PORTER: We couldn't even use 15-10...
GREEN: No, this was long before the ... I guess this was right in the .8 microns, something like that, and the lasers were infrared but they were just barely infrared -.85, I think, as I remember? And we tried in the laboratory at Times, we tried analog direct modulation on the lasers. In other words, using the NTSC signal to modulate the lasers directly and we could stack ten channels up or something like that, even more. We could get 20 channels but they were terribly, terribly noisy and the problem was the laser. Lasers were very expensive. As I remember, at the time -and this is 1977 -they were ten thousand dollars, so you'd take it out and be very, very careful with it. So we did try what eventually became the solution but the lasers weren't good enough and then subsequently over the years, I think Time Warner really solved that problem because what they did is put out sufficient R&D contract dollars that the laser manufacturers began to solve the problem of the noise and reduce the noise. The lasers that we had available then were really made for digital application because nobody was using them for analog modulation. They were non-linear in a lot of ways, so they had not been optimized for what we needed to do, and Time Warner, through a very well thought out R&D program, convinced manufacturers to look at these problems and develop lasers which are linear which would handle analog NTCS kind of modulation directly and solve the noise problem. One of the most interesting problems I had while I was Times, which you probably remember, Rex, I don't know -we would put these lasers out in the field and they would last about a year and then they'd develop what we called the green crud problem. They would grow mold and the mold would eventually get bad enough that it would block the light and the lasers would fail, and so when we'd sell these devices to a cable system we'd know that we had to go back in a year and replace the laser and they're expensive. Now probably the ones we were putting in the field were only two or three thousand dollars, so they weren't the really high-priced lasers. So we had to figure out a way to keep that from happening because there weren't lasers that were hermetically sealed at that point in time, and that's what you really want is a hermetically sealed laser but they hadn't been invented yet. So what we did is we took two little connection boxes, just the little blue construction boxes that you use in laboratories, and we put the laser in there and we'd pump dry nitrogen into the box and seal it up and it takes maybe two or three years for the dry nitrogen to leak out. So the lasers would last at least two or three years, so we vastly improved the product with the work around. There were a lot of fascinating problems and it was kind offun to be part of that first generation of...
PORTER: It was the start of fiber as far as the cable industry was concerned because this was back in...
GREEN: This was about '76, '77.
PORTER: And that's when it was introduced at the Western Show was in December of'76, so it had to be the '77 era.
GREEN: That's probably when I saw it, see, because I probably went to the Western Show in '76 and saw the Times booth.
PORTER: At the Disney Land convention center, the one in Anaheim is where we showed that.
GREEN: Yeah, right. That's exactly right. That's the first cable show I attended, I think. It was a technology ahead of its time. It took additional developments, better lasers, better cabling, better ways of cabling. Looking at it from a technical point of view these are great things.
PORTER: Now, you've spent some months at Times, I don't know exactly how much, but at some point you left to go somewhere else.
GREEN: I was there a little over a year, I think, something like that. All the time I was there I kept getting calls from CBS. So I went into New York...
PORTER: To work in their labs?
GREEN: Well, I kept saying no, I can't leave this job, I've only been here a year, and so I did go into New York to talk to them and they said, "Okay, we'd really like you to come to work for CBS," and they gave me a list of jobs. They said, "You can pick one of them." The one I liked best was running the research laboratory for CBS which was in Stamford, and since I had moved to Connecticut and lived north of Stamford at the time it wasn't a long commute, so that seemed to be attractive.
PORTER: And you didn't have to move your family.
GREEN: I didn't have to move my family and CBS Research Labs in my view is a very prestigious laboratory. It had some very capable people who'd made real contributions to the video world, and it was kind of like an academic environment. So I decided that that would be a good direction for me because it combined my production experience in Los Angeles together with my R&D background and it was running what they called the Advanced Television Research Laboratory at Stamford, so I decided to take the job. It was painful leaving Times and I hated to do that. On the other hand, it was an opportunity to work for what I considered to be a very ... I could do very promising research work for a laboratory that had a very successful record and there had been some previous directors of the laboratory that had been very famous contributors to video and broadcast technology. So, I took the job there.
PORTER: So, when you went to work there, was it just lab work or were you given the job of being in charge of the laboratories?
GREEN: I was in charge of the laboratories and we had various research projects. One was digital television. We built the first frame storers, which were a whole wall at the time. You can get them on a chip now, but literally they took a whole wall. We experimented with various kinds of digital video. We did work for CBS Records, too, because I tried to convince CBS Records that they should master in a digital form -a difficult sell because there are risks in changing your mastering technique. Steinway Pianos was one of CBS's companies so we would help them out with some research activity, but most of my work was on the television side. I got involved in international standards work there because we were doing work in digital television. The world was beginning now to look at standards for digital television so I, representing CBS, spent a lot of time in Europe working with Europeans developing what became the ITU 601 standard which is the digital television standard, and that was in the early ' 80s. So for the first time we had a unified television standard throughout the world. Still, I had the 50-60 hertz difference problem, but we agreed on a common sampling rate, colorimetry and other kinds of parameters, so it was really the first step in getting some uniformity of standards throughout the world for television. It was the digital television standard.
PORTER: Did you find that the international participation really were wanting to cooperate, especially with what we had had with the NTSC, the PAL, the CCAM, all the differences?
GREEN: Some of the people were the same people that had worked on PAL and CCAM and so on, and the real opportunity for me was working with these world class laboratories throughout the world -CCETT in France, a national research laboratory working on video and doing work in video technology; the BBC Laboratory in the UK -and so a lot of the R&D work that formed the basis was done by laboratories throughout the world -Rie Laboratory in Italy. We had some brilliant Russian scientists that contributed to this. I'll always remember, we're sitting down writing the detailed standards and there's this one fellow who didn't say much but an extraordinarily bright guy, and he'd just raise his hand and he said, "You know, what happens when the signal levels O?" We said, "Oh." It affected the whole standard. We just hadn't thought about a signal level of 0 and you have to have a digital level for that and you have to include that, and of course it changes things quite a bit. So a combination of really very, very capable scientists from throughout the world -I had a chance to work with them to develop the standard. It was painful, too because there are people who are dogmatic about particular positions.
PORTER: I just wondered if you found them a little more willing or looking forward to a little more cooperation in the digital world than they had possibly done in the analog world.
GREEN: Well, I think there was more cooperation at that particular point in time. In fact, it was considered quite a milestone that we could get agreement throughout the world. I came out of that experience thinking, "That wasn't so bad." It was hard work but we really achieved something. So then I, again working for Joe Flaherty at CBS, he had a strong interest in high definition so the thought was, well, let's get a standard worldwide for high definition television, and in fact, if we can do this it would be a real breakthrough for electronic distribution. You see, 35 mm film is the same everywhere. You can shoot it anywhere, you show it anywhere, you can process it anywhere -there's no different throughout the world. That's a huge advantage and it's one of the reasons that film is such a popular mastering medium. I mean, there are many, many others probably more important, but nevertheless it has universal portability. The thought was, well, we can do this with video too. Let's get a world standard so we can shoot the same format anywhere in the world and show it anywhere in the world and master in it, and have this portability. Seems like a great idea, right? Well, turned out that was a very, very difficult experience. There's first the 50-60 hertz problem, how can you solve that. One side or the other has to give up and nobody was really willing to do that. So 1 chaired a committee which went on for ten years trying to standardize high definition. The 601 which I chaired was much more successful, again, I think to your point there was a spirit of cooperation on that. On high definition television there were a lot of economic and national interests involved in that and fear of one nation or another using the standard to dominate the cultural production values of another. It's a very complex equation. We did achieve standardization on the aspect ratio, 16 x. 9, and the colorimetry, and that was a start. Now there is a standard. Over the years we now have a 1080 production standard. We started out at 11255 x 3 aspect, we went through many, many iterations and all kinds of history involved in that. Well, I worked at CBS until 1983 and at that time high definition was in its infancy kind of. In 1981, while I was working for CBS, because I had a technical engineering laboratory background and had production experience, I went to Los Angeles -about this time of year, it was early December -to experiment with high definition television. Japanese companies loaned us some cameras, high definition cameras and recorders that were really development units and I went to LA, put together a remote truck having had experience in doing remotes and so on, and I grabbed a guy from the CBS Labs names Mike Ricossa. He was kind of a young technician, he'd come on board there, and I said, "You and I are going to LA." We worked night and day, put together a remote van in an old CBS truck -the Charles Kurault "On the Road" vehicle, they'd loaned that to us. We did a series of productions in LA in high definition, the first ones done in the country, in December 1981. We did the first one ever in the U.S., and it was a football game -Rams v. Redskins, Anaheim Stadium.
PORTER: When was this?
GREEN: December 1981. We had two cameras and stereo audio, 5:3 aspect ratio, 1125 lines. We recorded this football game. I had CBS cameramen assigned to us and high definition cameras are very difficult to run because you have this little viewfinder and you can't tell whether it's in focus or not. So we discovered some things right off the bat that were difficult, but the first interesting thing about a football game is you have a lot of light and therefore if it's out of focus you're still within the depth of focus for range. Anyway, we did a football game. It was a "C" game for CBS. We had the rights so we did it in standard definition and we did it in high definition, we just recorded the high definition version. They were both at the bottom of the league so it wasn't a very interesting game and it was a pretty bad football game, but it turned out pretty nice in high definition. We discovered that doing sports, especially a football game, is huge value in high def and that stereo audio adds immensely to the feeling of being there. The wide aspect ratio fits a football game very well and so of course we learned probably what should have been obvious -that sports is really a big winner in high definition television.
PORTER: But you couldn't broadcast...
GREEN: No, we just recorded it. We did it just like a standard broadcast only we did it on two cameras and of course the CBS game that went over the air had six cameras but you couldn't intermix them, of course . Then, while we were in LA, with Francis Ford Coppola we did a couple of short movies. We used some sound stage at Zoetrope Studios, worked with him trying to explore high definition as a movie medium. We did a program called Six Shots with Terri Garr. Did another one called Double Suicide with an unknown named Gallagher. Do you remember Gallagher? The guy with the Sledge-0-Matic? We made an actor out of him and we did a short movie called Double Suicide which was about two people committing suicide at the same time meeting each other -very Japanese. Since we had a lot of Japanese crew members there, Francis wanted to do something that had some Japanese meaning. I guess there are a lot of Japanese stories that have double suicide as a theme. Anyway, that's why we did that. We did with Glen Larson a Fall Guy episode. I don't know if you remember the series Fall Guy, it was about a stuntman, and we shot side-by-side -Lee Majors agree to this, he was a co-owner of the show and it was a hard decision -but we shot side-by-side with a film camera and produced an episode of the Fall Guy in high definition in 1981. We did the Rose Parade which is spectacular, of course, in high definition television, all recorded. We did this over a period of about three weeks and then at the first of the year took over the basement of the CBS Television City, set up editing bays and edited all this into a production which we then took to New York and Washington to show people what high definition was really like.
PORTER: So it was really for demonstration purposes.
GREEN: Nobody had seen high definition ever.
PORTER: Right, interest gathering. Was that at the end of your stint with CBS?
GREEN: That experience plus Joe Flaherty's interest and CBS's interest in developing high definition television, they asked me to go to Washington to set up a standards committee, the ATSC. It was modeled after the NTSC but for advanced television, and so the idea was to set up a multi-industry committee to develop the specifications for a standard for the U.S. for high definition television. So I went to Washington. NAB gave us offices so we basically wrote the charter and set up this committee and I was there until '83. So I was there a couple of years getting it started. Bill Henry was our chairman and Bill Henry had been chairman of the FCC during the Kennedy era, and he was the guy who signed my original FCC license. So it was kind of interesting working with him.
PORTER: Now you're there in Washington. Are you on CBS's payroll?
GREEN: Initially I was on the CBS payroll when I first went there but then we set up a whole financial infrastructure. People paid dues into the committee and so we set up a self-sustaining organization and it included the cable industry. It was through ATSC that I met Wendell Bailey, got acquainted with NCTA, NAB, MSTV, and IEEE was also one of the charter members.
PORTER: Did you stay at NAB headquarters?
GREEN: Yeah, we had offices there. We were a separate organization but they donated the space. It was just one office, basically.
PORTER: How long did you stay there?
GREEN: A couple years, and then kind of interesting, I got a call from... well, to digress just a little bit, we did the productions in the U.S. for high definition television. The following year I went to Europe and we did a similar set of productions in Europe with European production organizations. So I'd gone to Leningrad, at the time Leningrad, to the Kirov Ballet, and so I got to do a ballet in high definition television, which is really interesting because the Russians just said basically, "What do you want? How do you want to do this?" And I thought, "Ho! Here's my opportunity to do the perfect program." And so I sent back a long Telex, "Here's what I need: I need the Leningrad Symphony recorded," and I needed all these kinds of things, and they did it, to the letter. Way too expensive to do in the U.S., but they digitally recorded the orchestra for the Sleeping Beauty ballet, they gave me five days to shoot, we took the Kirov Ballet Theater over -and the Kirov Ballet is just extraordinary, the dancers are unbelievable -and what we would do is play this tape of the recording, they would dance to it and I'd shoot close-ups one day, I'd shoot long-shots another day, and so I shot for four days to get the whole ballet, and then the fifth day we brought in an audience and I shot the whole thing like it was live and then edited it all together. Of course it's all synchronized because the dancers danced to the same music all the time and it's a very high quality digital audio recording. They recorded every instrument digitally and mixed it down.
GREEN: Yeah! It was fantastic in terms of production.
PORTER: How come the government can't get ... ?
GREEN: Well, it really got very strong support. We found various problems with it. Jn a theater, like the Kirov Theater, you can't get enough light. High definition required more light in order to have a sufficient depth of field, and so it was very hard to keep the cameras in focus and the cameramen were not, again, familiar with it. Leningrad is more an artsy community compared to Moscow. Ifyou shoot in Moscow you get really hard-line production people, you know, hard-driving production people. Leningrad is a much more artsy community so it was a little harder working with them because you had to convince them first of all that you weren't damaging the art one way or another. So we did that, we did a bunch of other programs. The Montreux Jazz Festival, which is another. .. Anyway, the long and short of it is that since I had done all of those productions, PBS had heard about it. So when I was with the ATSC, I got a call from PBS on a day where I'd come back from this experience of televising a ballet like it had never been televised before, it was very stimulating. You know, a new medium you can do new things with, you can really make a ballet come to life, it was just kind of a very strong, motivating experience. So when they called me they said, "How would you like to come and do that stuff for PBS," and I was vulnerable. Let's talk. So I did talk to them. The first time that I talked to them I decided not to take the job. They got a new president, he also called me and he said new environment, we'd really like to have you come. So I then agreed to go. And I was living in Washington so I moved over to PBS. Another very interesting experience -the president's name was Bruce Christianson, and I was interviewing kind of quietly so I went to see him about 5:00 in the afternoon. I told him at that time that I'd take the job, and it was basically Senior Vice-President of Engineering, it was responsible for all of the technical side of PBS. He said, "Do you want to come look at the technical center?" I said, "Oh, it's getting late. I'll do it later." And I went home and that night it burned down, and I had just taken the job. I mean, PBS, the technical facilities were located in the basement of the National Post Office building in D.C. and the Post Office had a fire up on the 9th floor in the executive office, and the building had been built before sprinklers were required, so the fire department just poured water in in huge volumes on the 9th floor and it all ran down in the basement where all of the technical facilities were, all the video tape machines, all the switchers, all the origination equipment for PBS -the national network for PBS. So it basically was a total loss and I inherited the next day. I was still working at A TSC but I called the chairman and said, "Look, I'm going to go over and help them." So I was over there the first day and we took some meeting space and I met the PBS people and having come from a kind of high pressure broadcast environment, I got on the phone and called all my friends at ABC and CBS, and they sent us tape machines, remote vans and everything, so we only lost about 10 minutes of air time all together. But we assembled this armada of trailers around the uplink at PBS and a lot of the staff had been able to carry out, to save the video tapes from the library at PBS. So we had the programs or we could get the programs from other sources, and so we only missed about I 0 minutes of air time and stayed on the air. But Julie Barnethon who was the President of Broadcast Operations and Engineering at ABC really helped me out. He sent trucks...
PORTER: Did you move to a different building?
GREEN: We had to abandon that building completely. We set up operations at the uplink which was in a different place out in Alexandria. We set up out there. Julie had tape machines flown from AMPEX in Redwood City in California, air shipped to us, and we put them online and stayed on the air. But through those friendships and support from the commercial networks and particularly ABC, we were able to do that. So I was very lucky to be there at that time because I could really help them out by using that friendship and that contact. I'll be forever grateful to Julie.
PORTER: How long did you stay with PBS?
GREEN: Until I went to work for CableLabs, which was in '88. So I was there about '84 to '88.
PORTER: Prior to CableLabs as we know it here in Colorado, was there something previous to that?
GREEN: That convinced me about cable?
GREEN: Well, the experience at Times had a huge effect on me, I think, because meeting people like Larry DeGeorge ... it seemed to me at the time to be a very entrepreneurial kind of wildly developing industry, lots of opportunity, lots of technical challenges. I don't think I had a good grasp of the business side of cable.
PORTER: Who contacted you about CableLabs?
GREEN: While I was at PBS, a recruiting firm, Heidrick & Struggles, called me and asked me ifl had an interest in running a laboratory for cable. I was very happy in the PBS job and I knew a little bit about cable but I didn't know ... I would say I was skeptical at the time. Heidrick & Struggles did a recruiting plan for the original board that formed CableLabs and it was a very exhaustive process. There were many candidates. I also felt I don't have a chance at this anyway.
PORTER: What was the condition of CableLabs at that time? There was no building, was there?
GREEN: No, no, no, it was just an idea at the time. In fact, the way it started was as a committee of the NCT A board, a sub-committee called the R&D committee as I recall, and it was chaired by John Malone. They had looked at the question about whether the industry should have a research laboratory or not. Dick Leghorn had been promoting the idea for years, for four or five years before that. Coming from an aero-space background, coming from an industry that invested in research and development, he felt that this was really important for the cable industry, but it took several years for the idea to catch on. When it did, which is probably about 1988, the board formed a company, they formed CableLabs, and they began raising money. Dick Loftus got on the phone, called everybody up and said, "Here's what we're doing. We're putting this organization together." So the Lab was incorporated in probably early '88, I think April '88, or something like that. Heidrick & Struggles started talking to me about June, I think.
PORTER: But when they talked to you, what did you have to come to?
GREEN: There weren't any physical facilities. After the board started recruiting members, they set up a little office in Harvard Square in Boston and that's where Dick Loftus resided when he made the calls, but it was just one of these office parks where it's kind of a rent-a-space type of thing. That's basically where it started, and then they hired a secretary to answer the phones and so on. But there was no physical place to go to be interviewed. Heidrick & Struggles when they interviewed me came to the National Airport, the Red Carpet Club or something like that, that's where the interview took place. So it was basically an idea fleshed out as an incorporated company...
PORTER: Did they know where the location would be? Did they already know about Boulder?
GREEN: There had been some interest in having the company be in Boston because of Dick's presence there, and Dick Loftus lived there, and there was a fellow named John Rokowski who was with Continental who also lived there. So there was kind of a presumption, at least in the start phases, that Boston would be a good site. One of the first things that we did early on in CableLabs was do a study. There had been some previous work. .. I think the board had looked at six different locations, kind of high tech areas around the country -Silicon Valley, Boston, Research Triangle and so on -and the decision to locate in Boston was partly because of the high tech community and then also partly because some of the key developers of CableLabs all lived there. So, eventually of course I went up to Boston for an interview.
PORTER: Was the Boulder area the fact that it was Boulder and the Bureau of Standards was in Boulder, Colorado? Was that what put us in...?
GREEN: Well, again, kind of a long story but after I was lucky enough to be selected as the CEO, and again, I was really surprised because I expected that there were, and there were, people from the cable industry who were much better qualified in terms of their background in cable because I had a very limited background. But we did a study to try to determine what would be the best location and one ofthe first executive committee meetings which at the Western Show we went over all of that, we hired Pete Marwick to do the study, and Boulder/Denver came out higher than any of us expected. We just laid out the criteria. We wanted an area ... there were some distractions from being in the middle of the country because for a national organization access and .... and doing business in the Boston area was expensive, as well. It was hard to hire people into the Boston area simply because of the higher cost of living. So this area came about in part because the attractive living circumstances, the economic conditions at the time were at a nadir and therefore commercial property and residential property values were very attractive. So it made an attractive package to hire people. What was surprising, though, Rex, that we hadn't expected is that the third highest density of scientists and engineers per capita is in the Denver/Boulder area. There were a lot of telecommunications workers, there were a lot of aerospace workers, there's a lot of talent out here. So we looked at it from several different aspects and in the end the executive committee decided, well, yes, okay we should look for a location in Boulder. That was kind of interesting because we announced it at the time that the governor was giving the State of the State message, and some people who knew about the decision wanted to inject it into the governor's message that CableLabs is coming to Colorado. So it was kind of interesting, the actual decision got out before we could make an official announcement of it. It kind of leaked out because we sent out the background for the decision to all the board members and I'm told that somebody was standing at a fax machine and saw it come in -it wasn't any of our executives but it was coming in for one of them -called the governor and said you've got to put this in the State of the State. So we're getting calls from Colorado -the governor says you're moving! Oh, how did he find out? It was hot news, I guess.
PORTER: Why Louisville?
GREEN: One of the things that we discovered is if you're making this announcement in Washington you can say Boulder/Denver and everybody says, okay, well, we kind of know where that is. When you come out here and get off the plane they say now which is it, Boulder or Denver? That was a lot out here, right? So we said, well, Boulder. I think there was a certain part of this that was important that... there were a lot of cable headquarters located in Denver. We wanted to be sure that we weren't sending a message, well, we're a captive of the cable companies that are located in Denver. So being located an hour away in Boulder near one of the important research universities in the country sent a message that we represent the whole industry, we're not a captive of any one company or any group of companies located in Denver. We had to send a kind of national signal. So that's the reason for Boulder. We were in Boulder for a long time, five years in downtown Boulder in an office building. The problem with an office building is it's not a terribly attractive environment for a laboratory. You don't have freight elevators and we have heavy equipment which we need to move around. We were on the fifth floor which is very nice for views but in terms of operating a laboratory it wasn't optimum. So we obviously needed a building and we needed to have it designed in such a way that it would work well as a laboratory, so we began looking around for places to go. Louisville kind of welcomed us with open arms. We had trouble finding space in Boulder simply because there was a building moratorium, there's a bit of a suspicion about laboratories in Boulder, it's high tech and it could be important to the local community but satellite dishes might radiate. We're not sure about these satellite dishes. So Louisville welcomed us. I think what I wanted to tell you, Rex, is I was skeptical of the job when I was first approached. First of all because I didn't think I had any chance at it because I didn't have enough cable background, I didn't know that much about the industry. The deciding factor for me was, or what was really a turning point for me is when I met the CEOs, because the original board was populated with the CEOs from the largest cable companies plus Joe Gans who represented the small market operators on NCTA, and I was extraordinarily impressed by that group of people. The documents that the group sent out early on -it was a letter from John Malone to the industry; when I read that I realized this was an extraordinary group of people. I knew the pitfalls of a membership organization because PBS is a membership organization, and it was obvious to me that this group understood the difficulties in that and had built structural safeguards into the organization -the fact that to be on the board you have to be a CEO or the president of a company is extraordinarily important. The concept that the dues commitments run for three years at a time gives stability to technical people. So the elements in the foundation were there and they had been carefully considered and thought out. Each of those people had contributed to a structure, a concept, that really contemplated what was needed for success and so when I began to grasp that and that began to come through from the documents and the discussions with them, that's what convinced me. This is an extraordinary industry, they're extraordinary people, they really knew what they were doing. They really knew what they were doing. Coming from a broadcast world, I just have to say it was refreshing to see this kind of leadership and this kind of capability, leadership management capability. The challenge in cable technically is much more difficult than any I had ever faced as well because broadcast technology is relatively -in my view -simple compared to cable. Making a cable system work is not easy; it's very hard, and people who do that take on a challenge and they become extraordinarily capable technical people, too. So it had that aspect of it, too, which was very convincing for me. So the net result of those discussions was, boy, this is an opportunity, I really want to try this. It was the smartest decision I ever made. I wish they'd formed CableLabs five years earlier! The only thing I regret about this business is I didn't get in it ten years younger than I was.
PORTER: How long did you have to work at the labs in Boulder where you were up on the fifth floor?
GREEN: We were about five years in the Exeter Building in Boulder, I think.
PORTER: But all the time you were breaking ground and building your new structure in Louisville?
GREEN: We decided to move and it took about nine months to a year to find the property and help design the building. People like Dave Eng did a good job of designing the new building and the laboratory and it's been very good for us. We've just kind of outgrown it now. We're in two buildings, which isn't optimum. We're going to try to move into a single building.
PORTER: What was the project that was going on when you arrived?
GREEN: Well, I probably still have the slides from the first board meeting. The main projects were high definition, fiber optics, basic cable technology was another one. I remember the importance of working with broadcasters on high definition television was one of the elements of the first board meetings. So I should go back and look at those, but those were the major projects.
PORTER: When did you start the DOCSIS?
GREEN: Well, the phases that we've been through ... when we first started CableLabs the HFC concept was just emerging and our role in that was more to reach an industry consensus. I think Time Warner had done a lot of research and had a very good idea of what the direction ought to be there. Other companies had done work and had visions but they were different. So by getting everybody in one room and going through this, each CTO presenting their company's view about how fiber should be used really worked to come to a common approach, and so one of our first goals was to find some unified industry approach to the technology of fiber, and HFC basically came out of that with 500 ohm nodes and it was made over a period of years. The second important thing that I think that we undertook was digital. We issued an RFI probably in '91 to industry saying do you think video compression is ready for cable? We got back enthusiastic responses from industry, from manufacturers, "Yes, it is. There are a lot of advantages and by the way, we have the best technology and you should use ours." So that's what started the process of digital and we specified a digital cable box probably before any other industry. By the way, PBS was a partner in that. It was a long story but we came up with a specification for network transmission digital which PBS uses, which we use, and we came up with a specification for set top box. So that was the beginning of digital. TCI stepped up to buy the first boxes and to help foster that overall development. Another development was the regional hubs. We came to the conclusion that there were too many headends and by consolidating and getting scale economics in a region by interconnecting the headends and eliminating a lot of them, actually, that way that would be a huge economic advantage to cable operators. So we put that forward and it was an idea that originated in Canada because Canadian members had suggested that that worked very well. Rogers had developed Toronto kind of on a regional hub and so we propagated that idea in the U.S. and it caught on. We then looked at telecommunications. We issued an RFI saying we want to put telephony, data, and video telephone on cable, and of course out of that project DOCSIS grew and I can remember the executive committee meeting in New York where the CEOs sitting around the table were talking about a data service and it became clear that all the companies had purchased modems from different manufacturers and were offering or experimenting with data services. Bill Schlier said, "Well, why don't we ask CableLabs to get us a common standard?" So I said, "Okay." They said, "Well, could you do it in four months?" I think Jim Chiddix was in the meeting and I looked at him and he's kind of choking, "You're not going to say you can do it in four months, are you?!" But standing in front of the board all I could say was "We'll try our best." It took longer than that but it's one of the fastest developing specifications of its kind, which is a pretty significant advance in technology. We went from a specification to field tested hardware in three years. That's very fast development. So, as a project it took that little spark of leadership saying "Why don't we see if we can't get a unified standard here?" There have been huge benefits to that over the years. There were pioneers who obviously preceded us like Rouzbeh Yassini at LAN City who had been building modems for awhile and had been selling them. Motorola was building a modem but they weren't compatible. So DOCSIS grew out of that. It was a real test. I think a lot of people though that it was not going to work. There were manufacturers betting on the fact that it wouldn't work. But in the end we got a good product and it matched the cable industry's needs better than any of the proprietary products, and it is populated by something like 250,000, I think, certified modems at this point in time, many manufacturers, a very competitive environment, a very successful service on cable.
PORTER: What impact do you think that the SCTE's work with ANSI to take the specifications ... ?
GREEN: You know, I look at the cable world as having three important technical elements all of which do a different thing. CableLabs is an operator organization and it's closed. You have to be a cable operator to be part of CableLabs, therefore we can't do standards because we can't be an open process. We can develop specifications, we can find out what the industry wants, and our role is to figure out what the industry requirements are, what serves the needs of the cable companies. That's a very difficult thing to do a lot of times because companies will have different ideas and to come to some consensus on that is difficult, but once that's decided then we can issue a specification. I specification needs to be processed by a qualified standards organization which has to be an open organization, a due process organization, it has to follow ANSI rules, and therefore the SCTE is a very important element. We can't do what the SCTE can do, SCTE can't do what we can do. So we work together as a partnership. The third element, of course, is the NCTA engineering committee in which you have manufacturers and operators working together and working on the various elements of technology which fit into that. So those three elements -we all do something different, we all have different constituencies, and we're all inter-dependent and we're very lucky because as an industry together we've been, I think, very successful at developing specifications and standards and so on.
PORTER: That NCTA engineering committee actually interfaces in with... it's their one chance to meet with...
GREEN: The manufacturers. And to participate in that. We're very grateful for the role the SCTE has taken on in establishing a very credible organization. Steve Ocsala brings with him a huge amount of credibility and ANSI connections and has raised the level of the appreciation and credibility of cable standards. The DOCSIS standard, by the way -of course after a standard is approved by the SCTE then we take it on internationally, so you have DOCSIS and packet cable and very soon open cable standards which are world-wide -world-wide scale economics, world-wide credibility. Not too long ago the DOCSIS standard was the largest selling standard in the international telecommunications union. So a lot of interest. It is a world-wide standard. There's a DOCS IS modem on every continent and they all have common elements so that it means scale economics both for the consumer and the manufacturers.
PORTER: We've seen DOCSIS 1.0 and the industry's, I think, very forward expectant for 1.1, 1.2, 2.0, 2.2, whatever's coming on down...
GREEN: There's no such thing as 2.2 yet.
PORTER: Whatever's coming down the line. They've been open to the needs for security questions and the later aspects of DOCSIS. What do we not know yet that you could tell us about maybe if you look forward ... ?
GREEN: What's on the horizon?
GREEN: Well, our goal is to provide a transition plan which in the end has the cable networks being digital packet networks. My personal belief is that when we get to that conversion, and we're moving along, we have the specifications written for it, the packet cable specifications provide all the elements of it, but again, it's an umbrella, we can build a lot of other elements under the umbrella to convert. The cable system becomes the most powerful network, the most capable network, the most efficient network in the world, and it is by far the best path into people's homes. It's, in my view, vastly superior to the public switch network in just about every possible way. It's self-healing, it's distributed, it doesn't have a single point of failure, it's highly efficient, it's much more efficient... Think about it, on a telephone line when you're talking half of it's not used because the other half coming back is sitting there idle. Well, that doesn't happen in packet network. Paul Baran, who invented packet networks, has been to several of our conferences and I think, again, it's kind of interesting for him to see that we've taken a concept which he developed for DOD as being a very powerful way to build future networks, and we're taking his technology and using the very powerful infrastructure, the very capable infrastructure that the cable industry has been able to build, and we're turning this into an extraordinary asset for the delivery of every kind of telecommunication service you can think of in a way that's superior to any way it's ever been done before.
PORTER: Let's talk about one certain product for a second.
PORTER: Do you see any chance that computers one day are going to be called cable ready and that they're going to have a DOCSIS modem already in it?
GREEN: They already have! We had a program, again originated by an executive committee decision, and the decision originated when our executive committee was meeting with Andy Grove. Andy told us, "Why don't we build the modem on the processor. If we did that we could reduce the price to $50." At the time the modems were $200. And of course being the competent executives that our executives are, they said, "Oh, that would be good!"
PORTER: They would be willing to pay just as much just to get the modem away from...
GREEN: Well, it reduces the cost, it becomes ubiquitous, lots of advantages. So they basically said, "Let's do that." It's a lot easier said then done. It's a very difficult task because of a lot of security elements. Computers have software which can be used to infiltrate a cable network. So we worked with Intel and others for quite a long time to solve those problems. It took about three or four years. It took a lot longer than I had anticipated or I think any of our executives had anticipated. We call it a CCEM modem, which is the modem built on the processor, and it passed certification in the last wave and so now it's available. So you will see computers arriving in the field that have F connectors on them.
PORTER: Well, I hope we have more luck with that than we did with cable ready TVs, and I'm being a little cute.
GREEN: We're working on the interface between consumer electronics equipment and cable. I think there are some important breakthroughs on the horizon there. I think that we've come a long ways towards solving that problem, too.
PORTER: So are you kind of hinting that we may be looking toward TV manufacturers that will put the need for an outside set-top convertor completely away from us the same way?
GREEN: Well, I think a different way of saying I think may be close to the same way is that we need to make consumer equipment more cable friendly. We have a process through open cable and then with various licenses with the CE industry so that they can build television receivers that will connect to cable, have the security element a replaceable element, a pod, and therefore be more friendly to the consumer than the present sets. Does that mean there won't be set-top boxes? My personal view is that set-top boxes are the way the industry introduces and provides new services.
PORTER: More interactive?
GREEN: Well, television sets last a long time. People buy them and the technology moves at a much faster rate than that, so anything you build in a television set is going to be quickly superseded by technology. So in order to bring the latest technology to customers you need to add something to the television set. You need to put a set-top box on. I mean, that's the way we're doing digital. The old sets ... you don't want sets to become obsolete because there's a huge investment in the existing sets but you do want people to be able to see new services on their old set, and that's where set-top boxes come in. Even if we built the most advanced, high definition, digital set now, I guarantee you in three years from now you're going to want some service on there that...
PORTER: You always do.
GREEN: You always do. And we're good at that.
PORTER: What impact do you think fiber into the home is going to have?
GREEN: Obviously the desirable long-term goal is the cable network fiber which is now out at a node gradually migrates toward the home. I think eventually, probably not in my lifetime, but eventually, that will happen. Right now there isn't sufficient economic need or benefit in doing that. It's very expensive; the economic trade-off is not favorable. At least, I've never seen an economic model that makes sense to do that.
PORTER: And that's ultimately the driver anyhow.
GREEN: The cable industry is very committed to using the capital expenditures in a very effective way and incrementally introducing the technical developments because in a capital intensive industry like cable, you can't really afford a capital mistake. You have to go carefully an incrementally introduce the elements of new technology. Therefore, to jump from fiber to the node to fiber to the home is a huge cost, a huge jump and you really can't justify it, you can't justify the capital expense for doing that. We haven't been able to do that for the last fifteen years and I think in the future at some point, yes, it will become economic and there will be a need for it. There's a direction now, a kind of concern that we need 100 megabits into every home. Well, I won't deny that that isn't a goal for the future. Right now, certainly, most people couldn't use JOO megabits. That isn't to say we shouldn't have a plan to get there, but to jump ahead and give everybody 100 megabits when they don't know what to do with it... they're reluctant to pay for the 10 megabits we give them now, or the 2 megabits we give them now. So it's an evolution and very, very important because of the capital intensive nature of the cable business.
PORTER: We've got about five minutes left on the tape. Anything that you want to leave us with to finish this tape up?
GREEN: I think that the thing I'm most grateful for is being a part of this industry. I count my lucky stars every time I get a chance. I was very fortunate to be found at the time I was and to come into the industry at a very propitious time where technology was really becoming a major driver. Technology's always been a driver for the industry, but it was I think the right time and right place and so I feel very lucky. I feel very fortunate to work with the people that I've been able to work with in the cable industry and now work with. What a great group of talented people. We've been able to bring a forum for discussion of technical topics and strategic topics to the industry which has been very satisfying to us. I hope we've made a contribution.
PORTER: I think I can assure you that the cable industry would say the same thing about Dr. Richard Green and the folks at CableLabs.
GREEN: Well, thanks Rex, and thanks for the opportunity to get this all on tape.